William A. James passed away peacefully in his sleep at home on January 7, 2019, at age 65 after a valiant 22-month battle with pancreatic cancer. His wife, Syrie James, held his hand as he took his last breath. January 10 would have been their 43rd wedding anniversary.
Bill was born on March 4, 1953, the fourth of seven children. His father, Arthur David James, was a white-collar crime investor for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. His mother, Mary, was a psychiatric social worker. At age 8, Bill obtained his first job as a paperboy for his hometown newspaper, the Azusa Herald, rising at dawn to deliver hundreds of newspapers on his bicycle. From that day on, he always had a job.
After 12 years of Catholic school, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and his JD from Western State University College of Law, paying for his entire university education himself through student loans and income from a variety of part-time jobs.
Bill met his wife, Syrie, at a chance encounter at the University of California, Davis. They were engaged within three weeks, and married soon after. They raised two sons, Ryan and Jeff. He helped coach his sons’ sports teams and never missed a game, concert or theatrical performance. He served as Syrie’s consultant for many of the books and scripts she wrote.
His career at Rockwell/Boeing spanned 36 years. He joined the company as a contract administrator in 1979 and spent the first half of his career in Contracts and Pricing, then moved into Financial Management. In his last position, he served as director of finance on the C-17 program at Boeing in Long Beach.
Bill was an avid supporter of the Jane Austen Society of North America. He was fascinated by history and loved to read, especially novels, biographies and Smithsonian magazine. He loved a good meal with a glass of fine wine and adored a shot of Macallan whisky. He also enjoyed golf, movies and travel.
Soon after he retired, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He fought bravely through two major surgeries, numerous other procedures and 18 months of chemotherapy.
Bill is survived by his wife, Syrie, their sons Ryan and Jeff, and their daughters-in-law Yvonne and Yakun. A Celebration of Life Memorial Tribute will be held on Feb. 7 at 11:30 a.m. at Temple Akiba in Culver City.
In lieu of sending flowers, the family suggests contributions to the William A. James Memorial Bonsai Fund, which will donate two bonsais to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in Bill’s memory. More information is available at gofundme.